Natives turn attention to exhibition schedule





A combination of returning veterans and young prospects hit the ice at the Yellowhead Centre, for the annual Neepawa Natives training camp.

Eoin Devereux
The Neepawa Banner

The Neepawa Natives are heading into the MJHL exhibition season feeling pretty confident. After seeing the level of talent that was out on the ice during training camp, they have every right to be. The junior ‘A’ club wrapped up its annual fall camp on Saturday, Sept. 2, narrowing down the list of potential roster players from around 90 to 28. Natives head coach Dustin Howden said he was happy with what he saw from both the returning players and the young prospects.

“We had a very solid training camp. The level of effort out there was very high, and there were a lot of tough decisions that had to be made in order to get the roster down to 28. It’s going to be even more difficult to narrow it down from there,” noted Howden. “As a coach, you’re looking for those who took the off-season seriously and came into camp prepared. You could see that in many of the players, both veterans and rookies, they did that.”

Howden also commended several of the returning players for coming into camp focused and ready, singling out veteran defensemen Kruz Listmayer for his aggressive off-season conditioning work.

Shifting focus towards the pre-season schedule, Howden said there seems to be a growing sense of confidence developing amongst the remaining players, as they prepare for the next challenge. He hopes to see that confidence translate on to the performances out on the ice.

“What we’re going to be looking for in these six exhibition game is a sense of urgency. [The players] have to understand that there are a few important decisions that must still be made in regard to the final roster. The exhibition schedule will go a long way towards deciding who sticks around for the regular season. Now is not the time for these players to get complacent. I want to see guys compete.”

Natives general manager Myles Cathcart added to Howden’s assessment, saying that management and the scouting staff have been very happy with what they’ve seen out on the ice, with the practice sessions being highly competitive with a high tempo. As for the exhibition season, Cathcart said that what they’re looking for from these games, is to find the right player to fit the right role.

Neepawa’s first exhibition game will be played in Waywayseecappo on Friday, Sept. 8. Those two teams will met again the following night, this time at the Yellowhead Centre. Start time for that contest is scheduled on Saturday, Sept. 9 for 7:30 pm. After the exhibition schedule concludes on Sept. 16, the Natives will need to make few more roster cuts before the start of the regular season on Friday, Sept. 22, with a game against the Winkler Flyers at the Yellowhead Centre.